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EPA announces new protections for farmworkers

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced today increased protections for the nation’s 2 million agricultural workers and their families.

Each year, thousands of potentially preventable pesticide exposure incidents are reported that lead to sick days, lost wages and medical bills but with changes to the Agricultural Worker Protection Standard the risk of injury or illness resulting from contact with pesticides on farms and in forests, nurseries and greenhouses can be reduced.

“President Obama has called closing gaps of opportunity a defining challenge of our time. Meeting that challenge means ensuring healthy work environments for all Americans, especially those in our nation’s vulnerable communities,” EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said in a news release. “We depend on farmworkers every day to help put the food we eat on America’s dinner tables — and they deserve fair, equitable working standards with strong health and safety protections.  With these updates we can protect workers, while at the same time preserve the strong traditions of our family farms and ensure the continued the growth of our agricultural economy.”

U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez said, “No one should ever have to risk their lives for their livelihoods, but far too many workers, especially those who work in agriculture, face conditions that challenge their health and safety every day."

He continued, "Workplace illness and injury contribute greatly to economic inequality, and can have a devastating impact on workers and their families. By promoting workplace safety, these provisions will enhance economic security for people struggling to make ends meet and keep more Americans on the job raising the crops that feed the world, and we are proud to support the EPA in this effort.”

EPA’s updates reflect comment federal and state partners and the agricultural community including farmworkers, farmers and industry.

The EPA said the provisions will help ensure farmworkers nationwide receive annual safety training; that children under the age of 18 are prohibited from handling pesticides; and that workers are aware of the protections they are afforded under today’s action and have the tools needed to protect themselves and their families from pesticide exposure.

These revisions will publish in the Federal Register within the next 60 days. 

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